HON. JOHN M. RAPP,
a popular member of the lower house of the Illinois state legislature is, perhaps, even more than his fellow men, indebted to his ancestors for his iron will and general strength of character. His grandfather, John Rapp, was a native of Stuttgart, Germany. He was by profession a cavalry man in the German army. During the wars of Napoleon it fell to his unhappy lot to be one of the “Levy” made by that great general after the conquest of Germany. Under the Little Corporal he took part in the famous
Russian campaign, fought in the attack upon. Moscow and was one of the few who lived to tell the harrowing tale of the retreat that followed. He with a few pitiable companions suffered. through that awful winter without entirely succumbing to the cold, the hunger nor the terrible sights that continually confronted them. There is in the family a rumor to the effect that at one time he was obliged to fight to the death with a starving comrade for the possession of a single loaf of bread—bread that meant life to the survivor. When at last he crossed the Russian frontier with a spark of life still left in his shattered body he lost no time in preparing to set out for America—' 'the land of the free —the land where, at least history could not repeat the horrible events through which he had just passed. His sword is still a cherished possession in the family.
Mr. Rapp first settled in Pennsylvania but soon moved to Ohio where he married and reared a family. His son, John Rapp, the father of the Illinois representative of the same name, came to Illinois from Lawrence county, Ohio, in 1857. In connection with his brother-in-law Mr. Rapp conducted a general store at Jeffersonville. At one time during his young manhood he made the trip overland from Illinois to Pikes Peak, Colorado. Finding the mountains not altogether to his liking he disposed of his prairie schooner outfit and returned gladly to resume the routine of life in Wayne county. After his return he was fortunate in winning for his wife Jacquelina Willett, a young woman of strong character and unusual ability. She was the daughter of George Willett. from near Leesburg, Virginia, In the year 1843 Mr. Willett settled on a farm in Bedford township, Wayne county. This land is now the property of Mrs. Rapp 's youngest sister. Her brother, Eustridge Willitt, was killed at the great battle of Shiloh, during the first day's strife. He was at that time merely a lad of eighteen, but loyal to his land and anxious to fight for her rights.
Two months before the birth of his son, John Rapp the third, the father suddenly passed away. It has been said that in the heart of every true daughter of the South there may be found an impregnable fortress. This proved to be most true in the case of Jacquelina Willett Rapp. Left in her loneliness to bear and rear her son and to care for the little business on which they were dependent for a livelihood, she never wavered. Immediately upon the birth of her boy she assumed the management of the store, and so well did she handle the trade that eventually she purchased the brother's interest. If it be true that a man's success is commensurate with his mother 's ascendeney of spirit, then the star of the republic has not reached its zenith, for his was a mother of whom a Lincoln might be justly proud. She is now, at the age of seventy-two, a strong and capable woman. Her brave and untiring labor of the past is the crown of her declining years. She is an ornament to the home of her son in Fairfield.
As soon as the son and favorite companion had attained sufficient years he assisted his mother in the management of the store at the same time attending school in the winter and sometimes finding remunerative employment on some neighboring farm for a portion of the summer. Being as ambitious for his own future as was his mother for him they, by their combined efforts, made it possible for him to attend the Normal University at Lebanon, Ohio, from 1881 until 1884. On leaving the university he taught the school of his home district for one year, thus again sharing the home of his mother. The next two years he devoted to the study of law, being admitted to the bar in 1887. The following year, finding that journalistic work appealed more to his taste than did the practice of his profession, he bought a half interest in the
Wayne County Record, published at Fairfield, purchasing the remainder in 1891. The sheet has now become a leaden among the local Democratic journals.
In 1902 he was sent to Springfield as representative from the Forty-sixth district of Illinois and was reelected in 1904. In 1910 he was again chosen as state representative in which capacity he is still serving his district.
In 1889, after having permanently settled in Fairfield, Mr. Rapp was joined in marriage to Miss Wilhelmina E. Holly, the attractive daughter of Louis Holly, of Butler county, Ohio. Two sons have been born of the union. John holly, whose name combines those of his two grandfathers, came to gladden the Fairfield home on the 13th day of July, 1903, and his brother, Peter George, is fifteen months his junior.
Although actively engaged in politics, Mr. Rapp's only fraternal affiliation is with the Masons. He is a member of the Blue Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter at Fairfield, and of the Commandery at Centralia.